Taylor Swift Eras Tour Melbourne review: ‘A poignant lesson in self-expression and vulnerability’

Swift-mania took over Melbourne during The Eras Tour in the city. (Getty)

When Taylor Swift first addressed the crowd halfway through performing “Cruel Summer” on night one of her sold-out Eras Tour in Melbourne, Australia, the singer asked a question she already knew the answer to: “Does anyone know the words to this bridge?”

This is the world’s biggest pop star, after all. The city had already welcomed Swift-mania with open arms with a two-day academic conference on the star, various pop-up merch stands (with one Swiftie telling me they queued for two hours for the privilege of wearing a hoodie with the singer’s face on it), and practically every makeup, clothing and op-shop celebrating her arrival with a Taylor-filled playlist. Even the Jetstar pilots flying in fans from across Australia had pre-rehearsed an in-flight announcement full of Swift Easter eggs

Despite her superstar status, Swift was taken aback by the crowd of 96,000 (Graham Denholm/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

Nonetheless, the performer — who will be performing a grand total of seven shows between Melbourne and Sydney in her record-breaking tour — was visibly choked up after the audience of 96,000 sang back every last lyric to “Champagne Problems”. Her first piano ballad of the show was a stunning rendition of the emotional track which left both her and the crowd in tears. 

“This is the biggest show that we have done on this tour or on any tour I have ever done,” Swift admitted, struggling to hide her Cheshire cat grin as she made the revelation to the crowd. The Eras Tour marks the highest-grossing concert tour of all time — yes, really — dethroning Elton John’s years-long Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. And once consumed by the pure magic of the three-and-a-half-hour show, it’s easy to see why. 

The tour made its way through Swift’s 18-year discography. (Graham Denholm/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

Though the tour moves through eighteen years of music including nine studio albums — showcasing all her original releases except her self-titled debut — Swift’s setlist remains much the same as fans in the US, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil and Japan experienced. However, the singer leaves two spaces in the acoustic set for “surprise songs”, a legacy that has followed through since her Red Tour days. 

On night one of her Australian leg, Swift graced an electric audience at the Melbourne Cricket Ground with an acoustic cover from the very era where the nightly surprise setlist first transpired back in 2013: Red. She then thrust us back to the present day with a live debut of her emotive track “You’re Losing Me”.

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Swift may have always been known for her impressive songwriting skills and ability to connect with the audience through her lyrics, but The Eras Tour has reclaimed her triple-threat performer status which has constantly overshadowed her career by critics (we’re looking at you, Kanye). “Don’t Blame Me” is a blatant reminder that Swift might be the vocal powerhouse of our generation, while “the last great american dynasty” showed the singer’s storytelling at its best. “Vigilante Sh*t”, however, was her most sultry performance to date, with the following burlesque-style chair dance choreography and eliciting screams of delight during her chair drop move (if you know, you know).

The singer served her most sultry performance to date with “Vigilante Sh*t”. (Graham Denholm/TAS24/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management)

Although they’re not performed in chronological order, Swift’s various eras are distinctively marked through various costume changes and complex staging. Lover is indicated by tie-dye pastel hues, Fearless by the iconic gold fringed dress and cowboy boots, the house staging for Folklore, boho-chic looks for Evermore, snake imagery for Reputation, ethereal ballgowns for Speak Now, the Hipster movement for Red (which I remember all too well when I saw her perform that very tour in London to a crowd of 15,500, which seems miniscule compared to her recent feat), the New York minute vibes for 1989, and all the grown-up glitz for Midnights.

Of course, fans attending the tour often emulate one (or many) of her eras in the costumes they wear. And there are enough Stetson hats, feather boas and sequins to shake a stick at. Some even recreate their own versions of the superstar’s iconic music video looks. Enter: cheerleader Swift from “Shake It Off”, girl next door Swift from “You Belong With Me”, and even Eras Tour Swift with her bedazzled one-piece from the opening number, “Miss Americana & The Heartbreak Prince”. At The Eras Tour, no outfit is “too much”. So, pull up those cowboy boots, and let your true self-expression fly — even if only for the length of her show.

Fans emulated the singer’s eras with various costumes and swapped friendship bracelets. (WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Lyrics and imagery from each of her albums are also repeated in the friendship bracelets loaded up in droves across Swiftie’s arms. Fans swap the bracelets with each other, allowing themselves to forget that they’re among a crowd of complete strangers. It’s a poignant reminder that though they’ve never met before this moment, one person unites them all in this ever-supportive community. 

I didn’t get the memo, and my bead-less arms look very naked in comparison to my fellow audience-goers. One Swiftie behind me must have noticed because she gifted me with a red friendship bracelet with the number “22”. I may be nearing 25 years old, but in Taylor’s world, may “22” last forever.

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